Are you afraid of getting rejection letters after spending your evenings and weekends writing funding proposals? Speak to what funders are seeking, evidence-based models and measures that show how children and families grow from your services. Similarly, board members want to know that your parenting services make a difference in families lives. In this week’s blog we’ll offer some guidance to increase the chance of your parenting services proposals being funded.
KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research
Evaluating our own behavior in any situation can be challenging. Often times it takes someone outside the situation to help identify and assess behavior. Anyone who has had an effective coach recognizes the great value of having someone knowledgeable and committed to your improvement watch you in action and then provide helpful guidance. One of the most difficult things for parents to do is distance themselves sufficiently to accurately appraise their interactions with their children. A parent-child assessment can identify strengths and areas where we can help parents be more nurturing. An accurate and valid assessment can map the path to success for parents and children.
In honor of the end of Autism Awareness Month, in this post we share the experience of Dr. Emmanuelle Davison who assesses parenting in her work with families raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
According to a 2008 national study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children in the United States who were 8 years old were identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although symptoms are usually apparent before age 3 years, the peak age for identification is 8 years. More recently a 2011-12 Centers for Disease Control survey of parental report showed the ASD prevalence of school aged children 6 to 17 years of age of about 1 in 50 in the United States. Because of its high prevalence, awareness of ASD is essential. Early intervention can make a big difference. Below is an example of how assessing parenting helped one family with ASD.
The pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right claims the United States Declaration of Independence. Despite all of our advances, studies show we are not happier now than in previous eras. When it comes to parenting, some research shows that parenting doesn’t make one happier. Two leaders in the parenting field, Kyle and Marsha Pruit, have summarized this view of parenting well. The “happily-ever-after” family picture is a common dream of many, from all socioeconomic levels and cultures. Yet studies of families show that the happiness reported by couples drops off as their first child joins the family, and continues to decline through their children’s mid-teenage years. Although parents still report having kids as incredibly rewarding, juggling the responsibilities of children, their relationship, and daily life can be overwhelming at times. Along with the joys of raising children, parents may experience lots of new expenses, health issues, questions without answers, uninvited advice, exhaustion, postpartum depression for moms and/or dads, disruptions in intimacy, and less independence and opportunities to socialize. [Read more in Kyle and Marsha Kline Pruett (2009). Partnership Parenting:How Men and Women Parent Differently—Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage, Da Capo Press,Cambridge,MA, pp. 3-5].
Last week I attended the Third National Pew Summit on Quality in Home Visiting . It opened with a great Valentines Day present for all attending. President Obama’s State of the Union speech filled our hearts and raised hopes because he specifically highlighted early childhood education and home visiting programs as key components of his policy for the next four years. Beyond a gift to those attending, the Summit Keynote speakers couldn’t resist calling this a “Valentine” to American children and families.
Guest Contribution by: Alison Fennell
North Western Community Action Program
Early Head Start
Learn more about www.norwescap.org
New Jersey’s North Western Community Action Program (NORWESCAP) offers Early Head Start sites in 4 counties (Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex, Warren), serving 193 families. The programs serve urban, suburban and rural, highly diverse populations. To optimally serve such diverse needs NORWESCAP delivers Early Head Start using two models: home-based and combined model services, combining center-based and home visiting. Given this diversity, our experience is relevant to most other Early Head Start programs.
Parents invest lots of time and energy into interacting with their babies, because it is most often a joyful and rewarding experience. Parents are wired to interact with their babies, and it is this interaction that supports babies’ growth and healthy development. I am sure you've noticed that babies are extremely curious. Even from the earliest months of life, babies are natural-born investigators. Alison Gopnik at the University of California Berkeley refers to it as the Scientist in the Crib. Babies use all of their senses to figure out how the world works. Some of their keenest interests to investigate are their parents and other caregivers. Babies learn how to express and regulate their emotions and how to navigate the rules of social initiations and responses by testing them in the safety of their early interactions with their parents. An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Miami funded by the National Science Foundation observe and record the facial expressions and body movements of parents and babies during interactions. From this process they’ve found that when babies look away from their parents’ faces, it’s often because they need a break to check out what else is going on around them. So, if Mom follows that gaze of her 4-month-old son and talks with him about what he is seeing, she’s also supporting her baby's early exploration of the environment, even before he can move around on his own.
In our previous post we discussed evidence that parenting quality is a key factor in children’s development. We further wondered why more programs don’t assess parenting. We all know that what is measured gets attention. The converse is also true; what isn’t measured tends to get ignored. Currently, there is a strong push toward assessing outcomes, which are important in program evaluation. Assessing outcomes lets us know if we have achieved stated goals. However, assessing only long-term outcomes is insufficient. Many programs aimed at children monitor child development, but don’t assess the intermediate factors they can influence to promote children’s long-term development. As we discussed previously, the predominant changeable factor effecting children’s lives is parenting. By assessing parenting as an intermediate outcome, we can guide more nurturing parenting and ultimately improve child outcomes.
Momentum has gathered over the last decade toward collecting evidence to prove outcomes in the early childhood field. Funders and taxpayers want proof that the services they pay for have the intended outcome. The fairest way to evaluate a program is to see if it has met its intended goals. Most programs with the goal of healthy child development and well-being, school readiness or preventing child abuse and neglect include promoting nurturing parenting among their goals, because "Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and moral" (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004).
If you have followed all 9 prior posts in the series on parenting feedback you have considerable information on how to make it go well. However, how confident are you that every time you give a parent feedback it will go well? We ask this question midway through the Feedback Workshop, and very few participants feel confident. We then challenge, “You are going to elicit strengths, protect self-esteem, focus on future improvements, have a helping spirit, and provide specific prescriptions for improvement. What can possibly go wrong?” Despite all the effort, almost no one feels confident. Even when we follow all the steps, we realize at some point that we can only control what we do, not the other person’s response.